failure of the foreign war and the inability to cope with local uprisings, offered a loud challenge to any man of surpassing ability to raise his standard and attempt the restoration of a Chinese dynasty; for all recorded history had taught that when a reigning line of emperors is about to pass from the stage, just such a period as that of Taokwang presages its doom. Indeed, a foreigner in 1849, observing the universal disorder and lack of leadership, recorded his belief that a great civil war was approaching. Nor was he mistaken, for already the Taiping rebellion, as yet small and not differentiated from other disturbances, was under way in the hills of Kwangsi.
The man who eventually occupied the rebel throne in Nanking under the title of T'ienwang, was of Hakka origin, dwelling in Hwahsien, a district of Kwangtung not far from Canton. His name was Hung Siu-ch'üan, and he was one of three brothers. Born in 1813, he was enabled through the efforts of the family to spend his youth in study. Several times he competed in the provincial examinations, only to meet with failure. In 1836, while he was at the examinations, a set of Christian books came into his possession which he did not then examine. After another failure in the year 1837, he fell ill and had to be carried home in a sedan chair. During this illness he saw the visions which in later years he insisted were revelations from God.
In these visions he was carried to heaven, where, after
- Meadows, p. 122, "… judging from what we do know positively, we are entering on a period of insurrection and anarchy that will end sooner or later in the fall of the Manchoo dynasty. …"
- That is, the Heavenly King or Prince. He refused to use the term for emperor, because to him it was sacrilege to use the character ti, implying Deity.
- The number of graduates was fixed, and failure did not imply insufficient training.